Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Matters of Urgency

Climate Change

4:42 pm

Photo of Nita GreenNita Green (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

But I'm standing on this side of the chamber, while they're sitting there shouting down young women. Senator Chandler and I don't agree on much, but in the eyes of the Greens, we're just the same. I understand that people in Queensland have deep concerns about climate change, about renewable energy and about the ferocity and frequency of natural disasters. But if you want to make change, taking advantage of a natural disaster and sticking your finger in the eye of struggling communities is not the way to do it. To achieve real change you have to bring people with you. You need to bring communities with you. Nothing has been achieved by this form of grandstanding and finger-pointing. If that's how this debate is going to be played out, we won't win and we won't make any changes, because it means that they win. The conservatives and the right-wing think tanks wring their hands with delight every time the Greens come to Queensland.

Regional Queensland jobs rely on the environment and the reef. The Great Barrier Reef contributes $6.4 billion towards the national economy and creates 64,000 jobs. It is the economy in Cairns, although we do have other industries—which I'm happy to speak about at any length, at any opportunity that the Greens would like to submit a motion on jobs in regional Queensland. But in Cairns the reef is central to the success of the city. It is the same for regional towns all the way down the coast and along the reef. That is why it was incredibly disappointing that the long-term outlook for the reef was downgraded from poor to very poor. It was devastating news for the environment and for local business operators that rely on the reef. The Great Barrier Reef outlook report 2019 by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority further highlights that the Morrison government reef policy is in crisis.

Meanwhile, reef envoy and local Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch does not seem to grasp the challenges currently facing the reef, after dismissively telling journalists that we don't need to save the reef. It's clear that Mr Entsch is not equipped to look after Australia's biggest tourism asset, which contributes so much to the Cairns economy. The member for Leichhardt's silence on the report shows that he's a protector of the Great Barrier Reef in name only. It's a fancy title, but he's shown that he's not up to the task of protecting the jobs that rely on the reef. The release of the report is further proof that the Liberal National government has not managed the threats facing the reef, including climate change and coral bleaching. This sort of anti-science, head-in-the-sand dismissiveness from Mr Entsch will hurt Far North Queensland communities and regional economies and impact on long-term job security. The reef is undoubtedly Australia's greatest natural icon, and this government needs to do much more to secure its health for the next generations.

Finally I want to say this: the school climate strike is an important opportunity for young people to raise their voices. Their voices will be heard by those on this side of the chamber, but what we won't do is politicise the very deep, sad, human loss that is occurring in my home state. We won't cop that from anyone. If they want to wedge Labor, they should knock on the Prime Minister's door. Meanwhile we will stand here with regional Queenslanders, hand in hand, to find a solution for the jobs that people rely on.

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